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July 24, 2014

Feb. 24 strike vote set for St. Paul teachers

After nine months of contract talks, leaders of St. Paul’s teachers union have set a strike vote for Feb. 24.

The Pioneer Press reports sticking points in the negotiations include the union’s goal of a cap on class sizes and specific staffing levels for support professionals such as counselors. There’s also no agreement on compensation, the newspaper says.

In an update to its 3,200 members the St. Paul Federation of Teachers explained that if a strike is authorized, the union’s executive board would have to give the school district a 10-day notice before it would begin. A strike could start any time in the 15 days following that 10-day notice, the executive board says.

According to the Pioneer Press, St. Paul was the site of the nation’s first teacher’s strike in 1946 but has not had one since then. The newspaper says that in recent years the union and administration have forged a working relationship that’s been touted nationally as a model for collaboration.

A statement from St. Paul Public School Superintendent Valeria Silva says many of the union’s proposals deserve attention. But as stewards of taxpayers dollars, Silva says the district must balance their cost against other efforts to make schools stronger. Silva puts that cost at $150 million, but the Pioneer Press says the union disputes that estimate.

Parents who spoke with FOX 9 said they support the teachers. Kathlynn Kinsey told the station “I moved here from out of state for the school system because it was so fantastic. I still think it’s a fantastic school system. I will do whatever it takes to support the teachers.”

Union leaders have scheduled informational sessions for teachers on each of the three days preceding the strike vote.